PLDC 2019: a Rotterdam diary (Putting it all together)

And that is a wrap . . . PLDC 2019 closes its doors, the big top is packed way and the circus gets ready to move on to the next town. What a Show!

This is my personal diary of the event, from arriving for a day of pre-convention discussion around education and the professional standing of the lighting designer (what a start) to the final Huzzah! on Saturday afternoon, complete with aching legs and a head full of top quality insights . . . and ace chat with my pals.

Ahoy: still a building site, but those bicycles get everywhere.

PLDC 2019: Pre-convention sessions (Wednesday)

This was me wearing my Representative-of-the-ILP-Education-Committee bobble hat, requiring me to pay attention to the way that lighting design education is faring on the international stage, and then chucking my thee ha’pence worth into the debate on the professional standing of lighting design . . . and wouldn’t that be a good idea?

The morning session saw me surrounded by academics from all around Europe – Scandinavia – north Africa – UAE. An impressive turn-out and its clear that there’s a lot of seriously important work going on at the research end of our industry. As ever, I wonder to what extent a graduate with a number of years of research under their belt is fit for the job of getting an edgy piece of Designwork past a doubting client, a recalcitrant contractor and the VE monster lurking in the shadows. But this is no time to be churlish; these are exciting tomes.

If anything stuck with me from the morning session, though, it was the bit about language. Being a typical Brit and therefore barely a monoglot, I’m happy to report that English is the lingua franca (love the irony, there) of lighting education. But there is a problem, it seems. We don’t have the vocabulary to describe the nuanced way that Light works. That may have something to do with the workaday nature of the English language that barely goes beyond differentiating between a spade and a shovel. There are probably better language options out.there.

Staying in the Cool District -oh yes.

But my real concern here is where the new lighting language gets used. Inevitably, given out modern tendency to silo-thinking, having a secret language that only you and your family understand sounds a perfect bubble opportunity. Except that, once academe is done and the real world looms, none of those client, contractors and bean counters will understand a word.
Just saying . . .

The afternoon session saw a gathering of the lighting design associations, excellently moderated by Jonathan Rush.

Don’t be surprised to hear that we all have the same problem, regardless of where we live and work. Lighting design is still a marginal activity. That’s not to say that every project doesn’t need lighting design, its just that any fool is allowed to get their hands on it. So the question is about recognition and out of that, an understanding of our competencies and the responsibilities that come along with that.

In much of the European lighting theatre of operations, there is a single design association and that makes life a bit easier – a bit more focused perhaps. The UK, inevitably, has lighting associations in abundance: ILP; IALD; SLL and if add in associated bodies that claim their say about lighting design and what it is, such as LIA and EDA, then we live in a very muddy pond indeed. This is probably not helpful.

The outcome of the session was to look for commonality in purpose. There isn’t that much difference in the way that a lighting designer functions in, say, Spain, to someone in Norway, and that’s where the low-hanging fruit may be found. If we find that we’re all doing the same thing in much the same way, then we could be on the way towards a harmonised structure that can only help in promoting the professional nature of our glorious business.

PLDC 2019: Day 1 (Thursday)


A few weeks back Chris Fordham reported on a visit made to Otherworld, in London. Otherworld is a VR experience. Its website describes the experience:

You get the picture.

When it’s time to take off, you and your friends will each step into our sense-hacking immersion rooms. You will travel to a boundless world of natural beauty: the perfect antidote to the chaos of urban living.
Feel the sun beat down on your face as you emerge from the cave. Feel the wind in your hair as you slide down a vast mountain. Feel the thud beneath your feet of a new land to explore.

with Vera Wegener

Here at PLDC 2019, I was taken by the description of Experience Room 5:

Sitting back in a comfortable chair and relaxing with impressions of light and nature around you after a busy day at PLDC. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? .”

Helloooo: I thought – that sounds familiar. And I fancy some of that.

Vera Wegener is creating virtual spaces that require nothing more that the comfy chair and a headset – though I suspect that’s just the start of this journey. I have friends who are engaging with the Japaneses concept of Forest Bathing. Its a nature therapy for stressed-out urbanites – and it does require a visit to a real woodland.

But, at the same time, we’re talking about biophilic analogues (pictures and simulacra of natural elements (trees, my friends). Sooooooo – nature analogues . . . VR environments . . . see where we might be going with this.

Expect more on this topic in weeks to come.

Exhibitions: meeting up with friends, old and new: Paul Thorogood and Nataiia Reshetnikova, Deltalight

Having appreciated the world that Vera has created to demonstrate the art of de-stressing, I headed off to my appointment with the video crew of PLDM to talk around the topic of Circadian Lighting (whatever that might mean).


to find that I was to be interviewed by Deborah Burnett, of Benya Burnett. Now, I’ve known Jim and Deborah’s work for some years now and met them at a Pennwell convention in Long Beach last year and they are seriously lovely people. But to be interviewed by Deborah, about that benighted topic, feels a bit like having Pat Metheny asking me about my guitar technique.

This is no humblebrag; I would have gladly swapped places with Deborah and quiz her all about the work that she’s doing for years around wellbeing. As soon as the video is available, we’ll post it on The Light Review. You can judge whether I managed to blag my way through, or whether it was just Debroah saving my arse.


Advertised in the PLDC Programme as a ‘Plenary session on the pursuit of recognition’, which sounds like a suitable case for treatment, this turned out to be a bid by the organisers to claim ownership of the learning platform for the international design community, so no messing around here.

After a number of cheer-leading declarations, the meeting was asked to vote on:
“If you agree that

  • forming a common front and
  • committing to a professionally structured and independently coordinated CPD platform

is key to the way forward to gain representation for qualified professionals, vote YES.

The motion was passed by an overwhelming 80-20 majority (no 52-48 shilly-shallying here, you see)

There was grumpiness from the floor as to what this might actually mean – and what a ‘NO’ vote actually stood for. I voted in favour because I think its a good idea, in principle. How we actually achieve the end is where the challenge really starts,


with Sharon Stammers

Sharon Stammers and Martin Lupton are doing sterling work to raise the profile of women in our industry. Looking around the Convention Hall tells us that the situation is improving – but its clear that there’s still a long way to go.

I am now proudly wearing my Women in Lighting badge and glad to belong to the growing ranks on this side of the gender divide.

PLDC 2019: Day2 (Friday)

One of those days of taking in the general ambience of what PLDC is all about – loads of information being offered by lighting folks at the top of their game. I decided to take in some of the content that exists in that liminal space between day-to-day work of lighting design (if there is such a thing) and the world as we might wish it to be.
Here’s a couple of them:

Slow design: a gorgeous concept, presented by Amardeep Dugar, with David Gilvey of NDY Light stepping up to the plate in the absence of Jane Slade. If all we care about is the economics of a project then we lose the essential quality of what we do. Slow Design puts us into that space that needs to exist before we get into the edgy stuff of putting specifications together. Its about being mindful of what we do. Just don’t forget to invite your client along for the journey.

Lighting design for turtle nesting areas might sound a bit random, but Thomas Paterson’s description of what it takes to plan lighting for species other than our own was inspiring. And just because we don’t have many Florida Sea Turtles around the coast of the UK (not yet anyway) it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be employing the same kind of diligent methodology when planning lighting around our our indigenous species.

Looking forward to Frankfurt Licht+Bild

No, not that kind of ‘looking forward to’ . . . what do you think – I’m crazy?!? What I mean is there are clues, some a bit more subtle than others, as to what we might expect to see at Frankfurt in March. But if I give too much away here I may have to make myself disappear . . .

Rotterdam this is one funky town!

PLDC 2019: Day3 (Saturday)

This is the first lighting gathering where I’ve experienced the entire programme since leaving the LuxLive team – and the first time for ages where I’ve had freedom to roam wherever the mood took me. Which probably explains, come the final day, why a lot of time seemed to go by just sitting and watching – and chatting with whoever happened to wander by.

So here’s a not-very-exhaustive list of what we talked about over teas and coffees, in no particular order:

The best view over a cup of coffee in the show (Visual Feast of Japan)
  • the state of street lighting design standards and what to do about product testing
  • Brexit
  • is circadian lighting just an inescapable attribute of living on this planet or is it something that we can truly turn to our advantage in designing healthier working/living environments
  • Brexit
  • how do you pronounce integrative (and thanks to the CIE for that one)
  • Brexit
  • why can’t I get a cup of decaf coffee
  • Brexit
  • are we really ready for an international approach to education/certification/recognition of the lighting design profession

oh, and did I mention Brexit?

BUT: no one talked much about the one thing that really matters to us all NOW – so let me end this diary with a poem:

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm.

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy.
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

William Blake understood Cognitive Dissonance – and the hypocrisy that we all live with as a consequence of being card-carrying members of home sapiens.

Because we are social animals we enjoy gathering together to share our stories. An annual convention is a glorious example of the positive nature of talking and working – and going forward – together. (Brexiters please note)

But the Rose is sick – and the Worm that is our Climate Crisis has burrowed into the heart of our Joy . . . so can there really be a place for the international convention as its currently configured. Over the past few days I’ve enjoyed the company of friends from (in no particular order and with apologies for the omissions):


  • California
  • Canada
  • China
  • Croatia
  • Russia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Denmark
  • Sweden
  • Finland
  • Norway
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Greece
  • India
  • Japan
  • Scotland
  • Ireland
  • Morocco
  • UAE
  • oh yes, and England

You get the picture? Its a gathering that is producing a Carbon Footprint that, in all truth – hand on heart – we can’t sustain. We still talk about how clever we’ve been to reduce the energy footprint of our technology but we’re not yet seeing a different way to get together and share our knowledge. Its tough, and it hurts . . . but we really, really, need to find a different way.

Yes, I want to carry on having conversations with my friends from Vancouver and California and to find out how lighting design is progressing in the Indian sub-continent, but I fear that those face-to-face, huggable, days are past.

We need to find a new way to talk.

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